When the creator of Mad Men wants the new adverts for series six to have a certain look and sensibility, he'll always get his way – even if his people have to track down a 75-year-old illustrator to his home near Saffron Walden, Essex.
"The approach came out of the blue, it was a nice surprise," said Brian Sanders, the man hired to draw an advertising campaign that will soon be seen in magazines and newspapers and on billboards, buses and web pages, heralding the much-awaited return of Don Draper and colleagues at the Spencer Cooper ad agency.
Mad Men's creator, Matthew Weiner, saw examples of Sanders's work in a recent book of magazine advertising called Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s and asked the marketing team to create the same look. They went one better by finding the man himself, still working after a career lasting more than 50 years.
It was particularly pleasing for Sanders because he is a fan. "I do like the programme because the same things were going on in London," he said. "It took me right back to those days."
Sanders recalled working for the company Artist Partners in Mayfair in the 1960s, when there was a tradition that would enhance any modern office: "We used to have a party every Friday night. It was very civilised. People would mostly have a G&T but you could have what you wanted and then quite often we'd end up somewhere like the Studio Club."
Sanders said the weekly event for the advertising industry in London was organised by Artist Partners' MD, "a man called Don Candler, of all things".
Sanders felt he was in the thick of the swinging 60s ad scene, and was of course snappily dressed – "American suit, straight ties" – and going to all the right restaurants, places like Alvaro's on the in King's Road, Chelsea..
Like everyone else, he would smoke as he worked. "Not drinking, though. I learned very early on that was not a good idea," he said, recalling his days as a runner when he had to try to sober up one particular artist to get him started on his work.
Sanders has illustrated books, magazines and more. "By the time I was 30 I had worked for every major newspaper in Britain," he said, whether that was imagining what the stars of the day would look like when they were old or recreating the best shots of the greatest tennis players.
In 1966 Stanley Kubrick offered him complete access to the set and filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Kubrick was a fantastic thing, he said draw what you like as he didn't really like cameras on set." Unfortunately for Sanders the famously controlling director bought everything and published nothing, so no one could see his work. "I never quite worked out why," said Sanders.
Sanders was hired by the Mad Men team and sworn to secrecy, although he was not keen on signing a contract. "I said to them I wouldn't tell anyone about it and I didn't, until today."
The adverts feature Draper and were created using techniques with acrylics that Sanders had not used since the 1960s, a style his friend Roger Coleman called "bubble and streak" – literally forcing paint to bubble.
"It was a bit like riding a bike, you don't forget it," said Sanders, who does not expect to be recreating the style regularly. "I've kept on working by changing, I've not sat in a rut.
"It has been good doing Mad Men but I found it a little disturbing to go back – this was an oddity, a one-off."
Mad Men's new season begins in the US on 7 April and in the UK, on Sky Atlantic, on 10 April.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk